Many adults enjoy wine as part of their nightly routine, whether to complement a home-cooked meal, wind down after a hectic day, or just out of habit. The impact of wine on your health is dependent on the frequency and amount consumed, which is why there are positive and negative long-term outcomes associated with drinking wine and other alcohol. The good news is wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle if enjoyed in the appropriate amounts. Read on to learn five potential long-term side effects of drinking wine.
Excess calorie consumption of any kind, whether from protein, carb, fat, or alcohol, is likely to result in weight gain. While carb and protein each contain 4 calories per gram, alcohol has 7 and fat contains 9. This makes alcohol more calorie dense than other macronutrients, which is just one way it can contribute to weight gain. Additionally, alcohol is often combined with other calorie-containing ingredients. Soda, juice, and simple syrup are just a few of these sugar-dense mixers that frequently accompany alcohol. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that some popular drinks, like margaritas, can easily contain 300 calories or more per serving.
Alcohol is also absorbed differently in the body compared to macronutrients. Because alcohol is considered a toxin, the body will prioritize its metabolism above other nutrients which may lead to a reduced amount of body fat being burned and more challenges with weight management.
Hormones are like chemical messengers in the body, traveling through the bloodstream to deliver instructions to various tissues and organs. These essential compounds with broad-reaching functions make up the endocrine system, which controls your metabolism, growth and development, stress, and reproduction, just to name a few.
One study suggests that chronic consumption of large amounts of alcohol may disrupt how the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems communicate, potentially leading to hormone disruption with concerning consequences. Because hormones serve functions within so many bodily systems, a hormonal disruption could impact reproduction, mental and behavioral health, your immune function, and more. It’s important to note that moderate intake of alcohol is defined as up to two drinks per day for men, and one per day for women. Many of the hormonal abnormalities observed were seen in relation to alcohol consumption beyond the recommendation. While moderate consumption may be less likely to result in such disruptions, drinking less alcohol is better for your health than drinking more.
Alcohol has a significant impact on your sleep quality, which is why consistent, long-term wine consumption could negatively impact how well you sleep. Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, causing brain activity to slow, and it can also induce a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness. In some cases, this may allow someone to fall asleep faster, while others may experience delayed sleep onset. As the alcohol in the body continues to be processed overnight, sleep disruptions and lower sleep quality become more likely. While lower amounts of alcohol consumption are likely to lead to less significant disruptions in sleep quality, high levels of consumption (more than two drinks per day for men and one for women) can reduce sleep quality by 39%.
Sleep deficiencies, whether related to alcohol or not, can lead to serious conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and early mortality, according to Harvard Medical School.
Things get a little tricky here when discussing how alcohol can impact your cardiovascular system. The amount of wine consumed determines the impact on your heart health. While some studies show a moderate intake of wine is related to a lowered risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), other research shows chronic consumption of large amounts of alcohol can result in alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a condition that leads to the weakening of the heart muscle.
The reason red wine, in particular, can have a positive impact on your heart health is thought to be due to high concentrations of antioxidants, like flavonoids and resveratrol. These compounds are thought to improve blood lipid profiles, like cholesterol, and reduce insulin resistance, a condition that could severely impact your body’s ability to utilize carbohydrates and is a risk factor for diabetes. Drinking one to two glasses of wine per day, for women and men, respectively, may lead to these positive outcomes, while higher consumption may actually lead to lowered heart health.
This essential organ is responsible for breaking down and metabolizing nutrients and compounds in our blood. This includes detoxifying alcohol to turn it into a substance less harmful to the body. There are three main forms of liver disease, all of which may be induced by chronic and excessive alcohol consumption. Fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis make up the different types of liver disease, all conditions that can severely impact the proper functioning of the liver. Because one cannot live without a functioning liver, meeting a moderate drinking threshold is essential to supporting liver health.
All forms of alcohol, including wine, could impact your health when consumed in too high amounts for too long. In addition to these side effects of drinking alcohol, research also suggests long-term use can increase the risk of developing colon, liver, esophagus, mouth, and breast cancers. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation in order to safely include it as part of a healthy lifestyle.